What you will study
This module consists of four blocks, each of five weeks, and five further weeks in which you have the opportunity to think about and discuss the nature of philosophical study. The four blocks are as follows:
The aesthetics of nature: What do we mean when we call a piece of nature ‘beautiful’? Do we mean only that we like it? Or is it being beautiful an objective fact about it? Is all of nature beautiful? When we ruin a piece of nature, do we make everything alright again if we make it look like how it looked before? This block asks all these questions – and more – and guides you towards the arguments that will enable you to answer them.
Plato’s Meno: Plato’s dialogue, The Meno, is a classic text by one of the founders of Western Philosophy. You will learn how to read and interpret the text through looking at some contemporary interpretations. Such interpretations make vivid the claims and arguments that, even today, underpin important philosophical controversies surrounding the nature of knowledge, the nature of virtue, and whether virtue is teachable.
Consciousness: There is perhaps no greater mystery than the nature of consciousness. What is it that we have that sticks and stones do not? What is it to be aware of the world, to experience colours and sounds? Is consciousness a physical phenomenon? If so, what is the relation between a sensation (a feeling of pain, say) and a state of our brain? Drawing on dramatic recent work in the philosophy of mind, this block attempts to throw light on these issues.
Global justice: It is a fact that some people in the world have plenty, and other people in the world have not enough, or barely enough, on which to live. Global justice has always been important in Political Philosophy, but it is emerging as a central issue of debate. This block will go into the history of the debate (since the 1970s) and consider the key current points of contention: who is responsible for how things are? What should we do about it?
Throughout the module you will engage with key contemporary and classic material. The module will be of interest to those who wish to extend their knowledge and understanding of philosophy and of the research methods and perspectives of those working in this field of study.
Although you can gain the Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities from studying this module, it is the first module in the two-part MA in Philosophy. As such, it is preparation for the MA Philosophy part 2 (A854) which culminates in a dissertation, the topic of which you can choose yourself (provided it is appropriate to the subjects in these taught modules – which includes all the topics on this module together with Nietzsche, Foucault and Arendt, the philosophy of mind, and political philosophy, which you would study on A854).